Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Rose of Dufresne

Today is Evan's birthday.  Evan is the biggest of my three big sisters.  The tip of the spear, distaff division for the Kenny Sextet of Siblings.  I hope like hell that however she spends her day, her birthday is a happy one.  And I voice that wish knowing that this year, happiness has been an often-elusive goal for her. 

It was slightly less than nine months ago that Evan's great love - her husband Glenn - lost a spirited battle against cancer.  The death of a loved one is never an easy hardship to manage.  I believe that it is especially so when the loss that one is required to endure is that of one's best friend, be it a parent, a sibling, a child, or - in Evan's case- a husband.  In the immediate aftermath of such a loss, one is typically swarmed by an outpouring of affection and support.  As time passes, however, both the one who endured the loss and those who have tried to assist with the grieving process make their way back to "normalcy".  Or, at the very least, a reasonable facsimile thereof.  

Inevitably, grief gives way to sadness.  I remember, vividly, when Dad died almost three and one-half decades ago, that as the school year ended and the summer dragged on, the feeling that confronted me on a daily basis was one of deep, abject sadness.  It took all that I could do to keep my head up.  The boundless depths of my sadness threatened to suffocate me - like quicksand.  And as I struggled, I knew it was even worse for Mom.  Dad died on May 31, 1981, less than ten days shy of their wedding anniversary and less than two weeks shy of Mom's birthday. He had been in the ground for less than fourteen days and she had already experienced two rather significant "First one without him" milestones.  I would wager that in all the world no more exquisitely pronounced pain exists than that associated with running the gauntlet of "first one without" occasions.   

The "trick" - to the extent that there is one - is to remind yourself that Life is a forward-lived exercise. Perhaps, as a not wholly unrelated concept, also that living your life and honoring a loved one's memory are not mutually exclusive pursuits.  Children still need to be raised, grandchildren still need to be spoiled, and - in the case of my big sister - ponies still need to be ridden.  Andy Dufresne was right.  You can get busy living or you can get busy dying.  He did not promise that the former would be easier than the latter.  It is not.  It is, however, the significantly better option.  And at day's end, it is a simple choice. 

Rose Kennedy, the Matriarch of the Kennedy Clan, might have said it best of all.  Mrs. Kennedy observed that, "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.'  I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone."   

Never gone.  But even in the worst of all years, the year pockmarked by "first one without" moments, it recedes enough every now and again to make it just that much easier for the one who is enduring it to get busy living.  Especially so on a day set aside on the calendar to honor and celebrate her arrival here and her work to date.  

Happy Birthday Ev...  

...and keep getting busy living.  


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